Ngā Take Pūtea
What financial coaching can do for you

nā Diana Clement

Sometimes we all need a little hand-holding to manage our money better. You know the whānau would be better off if you made changes, but it’s hard to get started.

The answer for some is to get a financial mentor, someone who works with you over time to change your ways financially. Being accountable to someone else and taking small regular steps is proven to work.

Nik Randle (Ngāi Tahu), an authorised financial adviser, helped deliver a mentoring programme to Ngāi Tahu whānau a few years back.

Some wanted to pay off their mortgages or other debt, and others needed to stop money leaking from their budget.

For Randle, those who really stood out were people who gave up smoking when they realised what a financial drain it was on the family finances.

The mentoring programme started by taking a snapshot of the financial situation of a whānau, recording goals, and looking for realistic steps to achieve those goals. The other steps included learning how to budget, manage debt, get appropriate insurance cover, set up savings, and begin legacy planning to ensure tamariki and other descendants are looked after.

A mentor is someone who doesn’t judge, but is there to help. Quite often whānau know what they need to do, but need that extra little bit of motivation that meeting with a third party can give them.

Mentors come in many guises. A mentor could be someone from your whānau, or a friend who is good with money. At the other end of the scale it could be a financial mentoring company. However, it’s not always necessary to pay money to access mentoring.

A good starting point if you don’t have someone in mind to mentor you is to go to the local budget advice centre. Whānau often present with a short-term crisis, says Linda Ngata, Executive Officer of Te Rūnanga o Ngā Maata Waka. The multi-disciplinary education and social service agency, which also provides budget advice, often finds a Pandora’s box of problems within the whānau, Linda says.

If the whānau is willing, a kaitoko whānau worker will meet with them every week for the first two months. The meetings then decrease in frequency to monthly for the rest of the first year, and less regularly after that. Mentoring is done at the whānau’s own pace, and whānau are encouraged to find their own solutions to issues.

“We don’t tell them what to do,” Linda says. “They have to discover it for themselves.”

The whānau worker encourages brainstorming sessions in which the entire whānau may be invited to find solutions. Ngata cites one example where a solo mum of four children engaged in a brainstorming session with her 12 and 14-year-old tamariki. The oldest tamariki said she would have been happy to cook for the whānau whilst mum was out at work, but she couldn’t do it because there was no food in the cupboards.

The solution involved the 14-year-old taking on responsibility for shopping with the whānau’s food budget, and the whānau worker helped by educating the two older tamariki in the art of affordable meal preparation.

The CAP (Christians Against Poverty) Money Course run by churches across Aotearoa is another option for whānau who can’t make ends meet. The courses teach budgeting skills, and how to live week-to-week using cash rather than credit. The courses are DVD-based, and then CAP Money advisers work with whānau to pay off debt and make long-term changes.

It’s the 21st century, and sometimes technology assists in every aspect of our lives. Ngāi Tahu is piloting Tairākau, a four-step online financial mentoring website and app. Tairākau builds on the concept of the tuakana–teina relationship or traditional Māori buddy system. As young people work their way through the programme, they’re encouraged to seek out a tuakana to mentor them along the way. Tuakana means “older sibling”, but a tuakana could be another member of the whānau, or a friend. It’s a way of building a trusted relationship, says Teone Sciascia, programme adviser for Whai Rawa. “Tuakana can offer a different perspective and have a more meaningful conversation than might come from a bank.” Sciascia hopes that the programme will help to reignite values that can get overlooked in our modern world. “We are trying to build manaakitanga, kaitiakitanga, and rangatiratanga around financial wellbeing,” he says.

Diana Clement is a freelance journalist who writes on personal finance, and property investing. She has worked in the UK and New Zealand, writing for the top personal finance publications for over 20 years. In 2006 and 2007 she was the overall winner of the New Zealand Property Media Awards.